Premier League Power Rankings: Everton flying, Manchester United nosedive – Week 14-15

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In the past seven days we’ve seen two Premier League matchdays take place and there’s been so many surprises that’s it hard to keep track.

Manchester United’s continuing fall from grace has been the main storyline, but Everton’s terrific displays, Chelsea’s struggles and a revival from basement boys Crystal Palace and others  is also worth nothing.

There’s been so many changes in the rankings this week, as teams begin to position themselves accordingly for the busy festive period on the horizon.

(MORE: Premier League Power Rankings archive)

By now you should know the drill. We put our neck on the line to analyze the strength of each Premier League team, forget about the official league standings (here they are in case you actually do want them) that doesn’t mean squat.

The Power Rankings take into account the strength of schedule, injuries, suspensions, playing well but still losing and plenty of other variables. The W-D-L bracket shows each PL team’s current record and you can now see how many spots each team has moved, up or down, from week-to-week.

Let’s get to it!

RANKING
Up/Down

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1
Arsenal: First slip up of sorts for the Gunners, as they were outplayed by Everton for most of their 1-1 draw. Flamini isn’t their best player but certainly the most important and they looked a much better outfit when he came off the bench. Mental toughness will be huge for Arsene Wenger’s team over Christmas. Massive test away at City this week, can they take points from Pellegrini’s men at the Eithad? If Ozil Cazorla and Ramsey are on form, yes. (11-2-2)
source:  2 UP 2
Liverpool: The Luis Suarez show continues to take center stage at Anfield, my word this man is something else. Five goals in his last two games (and another two efforts which were deflected in as own goals) shows how much of a menace he really is. Brendan Rodgers’ men need him now more than ever with Daniel Sturridge out. Huge test away at Spurs, do we fancy Suarez to keep his red-hot form going? (9-3-3)
source:  3
Manchester City: Away from home, City have been feeble this season and they dropped more points and could’ve easily lost in their 1-1 draw with the Saints. Eight points from eight games away from the Etihad says it all. Luckily this week they’re at home, but they do host league leaders Arsenal. This will be an intriguing battle which will see City try to make up some ground on the Gunners as Pellegrini’s title credentials will be on full view. Will Aguero and Negredo continue up top? Or will he pack the midfield? (9-2-4)
source:  4 UP 2
Everton: The big movers this week, the Toffees impressed me, amongst many others, at the Emirates. Ross Barkley is a future superstar in midfield and the solid defense ushered by Tim Howard means they always give themselves a chance to win games. They left Arsenal with a 1-1 draw after a pulsating clash as they Toffees came racing out of the traps. But they need to score more goals as they create so many chances. This weekend against Fulham they need to do something similar. (7-7-1)

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5 DOWN 3
Chelsea: Defensive lapses and conceding boat loads of goals, this isn’t a Jose Mourinho team is it? Oh, it is… that’s awkward. A shocking 3-2 defeat away at Stoke on Saturday highlighted the Blues weaknesses and Moruinho admitted afterwards that he doesn’t like what he’s seeing from his defense after they leaded six goals in two games last week. Inconsistency has riddled Chelsea all season, will they bounce back against Palace? (9-3-3)
source:  6 UP 2
Tottenham: A return to form, of sorts, as Spurs won back-to-back games away from home 2-1 and showed steely determination by coming from behind to win both. Andre Villas-Boas was delighted and his side face Liverpool at home this week knowing a win could see their top four hopes given a massive boost before the Christmas break. Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and others were benched, there’s no way AVB should change his settled side. (8-3-4)
source:  7 UP 2 Newcastle: A poor defeat away at Swansea was followed up by the Magpies first win at Old Trafford since 1972, when they beat Manchester United thanks to Cabaye’s second half strike. Newcastle were solid, organized and rode their luck a little in the win. But Alan Pardew’s team has a real chance of pushing on and challenging the top four. They face Southampton at home this weekend, in a game the ‘Toon Army’ will expect them to win. (8-2-5)
source:  8 DOWN 1
Southampton: Speak of the devil, or, the Saints in this case, Mauricio Pochettino’s men make the long trip North to Newcastle knowing they’ve stopped the rot following three-straight defeats. Injuries haven’t been kind to the Saints but they dominated Man City at St. Mary’s and an in-form Daniel Osvaldo (his goal vs. City is an early contender for goal of the season) could see them push into the top six once again. (6-5-4)
source:  9 UP 1

Swansea City: A good week for the Swans overall as they beat Newcastle 3-0 and drew with Hull to move back into the top 10. Michael Laudrup’s men have a massive Europa League game coming up against St. Gallen this week as their squad will once again be stretched to the limit. Can the South Wales club push on from their promising start to December? (5-4-6)
source:  10 DOWN 5
Manchester United: What is up with United? We could write a novel on David Moyes’ trials and tribulations so far and we’re not even halfway through the season! Two 1-0 home defeats to Everton and Newcastle, their first successive home losses since 2002 in the league, have everyone questioning Moyes again and his side just don’t look confident or able to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Attacking impetus is badly needed, so expect plenty of new names to come in during the January window. (6-4-5)
source:  11
Hull City: The Tigers are plateauing out after a good start to the season but they’re still sat comfortably in midtable. A narrow defeat away at Arsenal and then a solid draw at Swansea proves they are extremely difficult to to beat. Stoke at home this week is a massive chance to get back into the top 10. (5-3-7)
source:  12 UP 3 Norwich City: Superb win away from home vs. West Brom for the Canaries and two wins from their last three has seen them surge up the standings. Gary Hooper is back scoring and defensively, Chris Hughton’s side look much more solid. Home game v Swansea is a chance to keep the good run going. (5-2-8)

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13 Aston Villa: Villans had a mixed bag after they beat Southampton away with a great display of counter-attacking play before losing at basement boys Fulham. Paul Lambert’s side haven’t got much strength in-depth and Christian Benteke’s lack of form is worrying. Man Utd at home this weekend… Can they pile more misery on Moyes? (5-4-6)
source:  14 UP 2 Stoke City: The Potters grabbed just their second win in 10 league games by beating Chelsea late on thanks to Assaidi’s wonder-goal. Mark Hughes’ side have been battling away and now have just one defeat in six games. A trip to Hull could see them build on an impressive win. (4-5-6)
source:  15 UP 3
Crystal Palace: Can Pulis really save Palace? Of course he can. Two wins in a row at home have seen the Eagles join the pack above them and there’s real hope in South London. A tough trip across the capital to face Chelsea awaits this weekend. But now could be a good time to play them. Hope. (4-1-10)
source:  16 DOWN 4
West Brom:The Baggies are dropping back, and alarmingly so after no win in five games and three defeats on the spin. Steve Clarke’s side are now just two points off the relegation zone and I think it’s safe to say West Brom could get dragged into the battle for survival this season. Hold on to your hats. (3-6-6)
source:  17 UP 2
Fulham: Two spirited displays in Rene Meulensteen’s first two games in charge saw the Cottagers finally ended their run of seven-straight defeats as they beat Aston Villa 2-0 on Sunday. Dimitar Berbatov is back hungry and ready to lead Fulham out of trouble. Promising times are back, for now, down by the bank of the Thames. (4-1-10)
source:  18 DOWN 4
Cardiff City: The Bluebirds were very poor against Palace and the lack of goals they’ve scored this season, just 11, should be worrying for Malkay Mackay. No win in five shows theirs struggles and a big home game v West Brom is coming up in the Welsh capital this weekend. Home win?  (3-5-7)
source:  19
West Ham: Chants of “Allardyce Out” are already beginning to emanate from the stands at Upton Park, as the Hammers poor run of form continues. Still no recognized striker staring most games means no attacking nous and bland soccer has taken over. Four defeats in their last five has seen Big Sam’s men plummet and a relegation battle is on. (3-4-8)
source:  20 DOWN 3
Sunderland: Gus Poyet lifted everyone at Sunderland when he arrived as the new manager… now he has to do it again. The Black Cats have now lost three of their last four and despite spirited displays in narrow defeats to Chelsea and Spurs, silly defensive mistakes are costing the Mackems. At the moment they’re playing like a side destined for the drop. (2-2-11)

La Liga roundup: Casemiro’s brace earns injury-riddled Real Madrid win (video)

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Casemiro’s heroic performance against Sevilla highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s goalscoring hero on Saturday wasn’t Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, or even Sergio Ramos.

With two crucial goals in the second half, Casemiro single-handedly earned three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, days removed from cathartic Spanish Super Cup win against arch rivals Atletico Madrid.

With Bale, Hazard, Ramos injured, Benzema on the bench far from match-fit, and Federico Valverde suspended, Los Blancos were in dire need of someone to lead the way, and place pressure on struggling co-leaders Barcelona, who are now under Quique Setien’s tutelage.

By the time the first 45 minutes came to a close, the overall impression was that it would take a miracle for the home side to earn much-needed three points.

That all quickly changed in the second half as the Brazilian midfielder chipped Tomas Vaclik after a picture-perfect backheel from Luka Jovic. Madrid were edging Julen Lopetegui’s side, and Casemiro foreshadowed what was to come.

With the score level, the Brazilian leaped inside the box and headed home a lofting ball from the right flank, catching Sevilla’s defense completely off guard.

Casemiro’s brace came just five minutes after Luuk De Jong‘s left-footed goal in the 64th minute.

League leaders with 43 points, Madrid prepares for their Copa del Rey bout against third-division side Unionistas midweek. Sevilla, on the other hand, host Levante in the same tournament.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Eibar 2-0 Atletico Madrid

Osasuna 0-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-1 Alaves

16-year-old Cherki scores 2 as Lyon advances in French Cup

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PARIS (AP) Two goals and two assists from 16-year-old forward Rayan Cherki helped Lyon win 4-3 at Nantes and reach the last 16 of the French Cup on Saturday.

But the run of Reunion Islanders JS Saint-Pierroise ended with a 1-0 loss away to Epinal, which scored deep into extra time.

Cherki put Lyon ahead in the first minute, deftly rounding goalkeeper Alban Lafont and then clipping the ball beyond a defender. He made it 2-0 in the ninth, slotting the ball through Lafont’s legs after being set up by right winger Bertrand Traore.

New signing Renaud Emond headed in Moses Simon’s cross from the left to pull a goal back for Nantes in the 16th. Cherki then showed great awareness to release forward Martin Terrier with a fine pass from midfield in the 37th for 3-1.

Cherki shaved the crossbar with a shot in the 60th and won a penalty in the 67th after robbing the ball off Thomas Basila. He generously allowed striker Moussa Dembele to take it, but Lafont saved Dembele’s attempt.

Two minuter later, Cherki threaded the ball down the right to Dembele, who slotted in, and the irrepressible Cherki set up another chance for Terrier.

Lyon’s defense remains vulnerable and Simon set up Imran Louza’s goal before heading in late on to ensure a tense finish.

Saint-Pierroise had caused an upset in the previous round by knocking out second-division Niort and the players again traveled 6,000 miles (around 9,700 kilometers) from the small island in the Indian Ocean, located off the east coast of Africa.

Saint-Pierroise, the former club of France midfielder Dimitri Payet, was looking to become the first club from the Reunion Islands to reach the last 16 and almost forced a penalty shootout, despite having forward Jean-Michel Fontaine sent off in the 15th minute.

But substitute Adel Berkane rifled home a half-volley for fourth-tier Epinal with two minutes left in extra time.

Also, there were wins for first-division sides Nice, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Strasbourg.

Lille won 2-0 at fifth-division Gonfreville thanks to goals from forwards Loic Remy and Victor Osimhen, while coach Patrick Vieira’s Nice side held on to beat third-tier Red Star 2-1.

Saint-Etienne won 3-2 at Paris FC, a team fighting relegation in the second division.

Paris FC led 2-1 with goals from former Paris Saint-Germain forward Jeremy Menez and ex-Rennes winger Jonathan Pitroipa. Teen forward Charles Abi equalized for Saint-Etienne with 20 minutes left before veteran right back Mathieu Debuchy netted the winner.

Strasbourg won 5-1 at fourth-tier Angouleme.

On Sunday, Rennes plays at fifth-tier Athletico Marseille and PSG travels to face second division league leader Lorient.

Rennes beats PSG in last year’s final.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

‘I’m very happy for this’: Jimenez becomes Wolves all-time leading PL goalscorer

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Raul Jimenez has carved his name in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ history books.

“I want to say thank you to all my teammates, to the staff, to the coach, because without all of them, I can’t achieve this goal,” Jimenez said following Wolves’ come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Southampton on Saturday.

Just minutes earlier, in front of a fervent stand of Wolves supporters at St. Mary’s Stadium, Jimenez scored his 23rd Premier League goal for Midlands side, becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Premier League era. The Mexican surpasses Steven Fletcher‘s record of 22 goals, which stood since 2012.

“I’m very happy for this, and I want to keep scoring,” he added.

With Wolves disputing Europa League qualifying matches in August, the 28-year-old began to build early on what is now a monstrous campaign – 19 goals and 9 assist in throughout all competitions. Half a year down the road, there are no signs of Jimenez’s magic running out. In fact, his brace against the Saints is clearest indicator of why that’s the case.

With his divine hold up play, well-calculated pressing and hunger for redemption, Jimenez emotionally inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side comeback. And in the 65th minute, his trademark penalty overturned a two-goal deficit, turning emotional to physical inspiration.

“[Coming back] was very important for us after a very bad first half,” he told Wolves reporters following the match.

Jimenez was full of praise for his team’s collective grit. He lauded his team’s “fantastic” second half – full of pressing and chances created. The tactic alterations implemented by Nuno Espirito Santo influenced Adama Traore’s run that led to Jimenez’s third and winning goal.

“In the end, we know that it depends on us – what we want to do, what we want to achieve. So, we need to keep going until the last minute. Keep trying to score, keep going with our football that makes us Wolves.”

We now know that Jimenez is Wolves’ all-time Premier League goalscorer, too.

Lampard calls for Chelsea to finish chances: ‘We know where we need to strengthen’

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Chelsea’s dramatic last-gasp loss to Newcastle United was, in a way, a blessing in disguise for Frank Lampard and company.

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The Blues conceded their first first loss since Boxing Day, dropping crucial points in the league’s top-four race. With plenty of chances to score at hand, the visit to St. James’ Park is one of sheer frustration.

But at the same time, the London side learned an invaluable lesson: Chelsea are in dire need of a new striker before the January transfer window comes to a close. Chelsea registered 19 shots (4 on target) on Saturday but squandered most, while Newcastle’s netminder Martin Dúbravka did his job and saved a few.

“We know we have problems at the top of the pitch in terms of we don’t get enough goals,” Lampard said following his team’s 1-0 loss, via the BBC.
“If you don’t score you are always liable for a sucker punch and they got it.”

“If we are looking for people to bring in to the areas to win games when you are controlling it, it is scoring goals.”

From RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner to Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, Chelsea has been linked to a striker all winter long. With Olivier Giroud a signature away from sealing a move to Inter Milan, a replacement is necessary.

Sure, Tammy Abraham‘s return to Stamford Bridge is an outright success – 13 goals and two assists in 22 league appearances – but rotation is visibly needed. Michy Batshuayi replaced Abraham, but failed to show any promising signs. The 26-year-old has scored just once in 13 matches this season.

“We can’t work anymore in training on finishing,” the 41-year-old manager added. “You need to have that killer instinct in front of goal. We need to score more goals from front-line areas if we are going to get to where we want to be.”

Lampard gave no indicator that his side are on the brink of landing a new goalscorer up top. With the transfer window open for just 13 days, however, Chelsea are going to have to get intentional on their search.

“It’s quite clear from what I am saying now that we know where we need to strengthen but we shall see.”